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Cats aim to overcome Pies’ mental powers

Geelong veteran Isaac Smith says overcoming Collingwood’s unwavering belief looms as the biggest challenge for his side in next week’s AFL qualifying final at the MCG.

The Magpies have become the fairytale story of 2022, winning a series of pulsating thrillers to snare fourth spot on the ladder.

Collingwood rattled home with 12 wins from their last 13 home-and-away games to earn the double finals chance, with nine of those victories by seven points or less.

Geelong are one of the few teams who have been able to beat Collingwood this year, coming from 37 points down late in the third quarter to snatch a 13-point victory in round three.

The Magpies enter the finals series full of confidence after coming from 25 points down in the final quarter to beat Carlton by one point last week.

“I think their biggest strength is mentally they never give up on the game,” Smith told reporters on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re four or five goals down or four or five goals in front. They’re attacking the game the whole time.

“Craig McRae and his set of coaches have instilled great belief in that group.

“It’s going to be important that we can deliver a full four-quarter performance. I know that’s silly and it’s a cliche, and I hate cliches and I hate hearing players say it.

“But they’ve instilled that confidence in the group, and it’s up to us to shut it down.”

Smith won a three-peat of flags at Hawthorn in 2013, 2014 and 2015 before switching to Geelong as an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2020.

The 33-year-old is out of contract at season’s end, but has already started discussions with the Cats about a new deal.

First, he wants to win a flag with Geelong; a club which last tasted premiership success in 2011.

Last year, Geelong finished third on the ladder before losing to Melbourne by 83 points in a one-sided preliminary final in Perth.

This year, the Cats finished two wins clear on top of the table and are primed for flag success.

“We’re certainly in a better position than we were last season, just with the health of the group and the level of performance we’re going at,” Smith said.

“It’s probably far and above what we produced last year. But that doesn’t give you any guarantees. It’s a big month ahead.”

The Cats expect Jeremy Cameron (hamstring), Rhys Stanley (adductor), Mitch Duncan (hip) and Sam Menegola will all be fit to return next week.

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